“Wow, that’s pretty powerful stuff. Much more exciting than my Sunday mornings at church,” replied Russ.
“And then there are the saints,” I continued. “A perfect blend of Rome and Africa. Saint Patrick is an incredibly popular Voodoo saint. Any ideas why?”
The group looked at me and each other. Silence.
“You look at a picture of Saint Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland and see the saint. The Haitian looks at the same picture and sees the snakes—Damballah, the spirit of fertility and health and magic, the same symbol we in medicine conceptualize in our caduceus. Then there’s the Virgin Mary as Erzelie, the goddess of love, and Baron Samedi, the god of the underworld and so on.”
“So what percentage of Haitians are Catholic, what percent Protestant, and what percent practice Voodoo?” inquired Rob.
“It doesn’t have to be exclusive. A Haitian sees no conflict between being a practicing Catholic and a practitioner of Voodoo. The Protestants are a little different. They tend to lump Voodoo in with devil worship and black magic. In reality, Voodoo and black magic are separate but related things. Most of my Haitian colleagues say Haiti is 85 percent Catholic, 15 percent Protestant, and 100 percent Voodoo.”
The candles were burning down, and the students’ heads were starting to nod. They’d been up for 14 hours and we needed to get started at 6:00. “Okay. Enough for tonight. Let’s turn in.”